Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday blogaround

Yeah, I went there.  Taken from

Hello! Hope you’ve all had a great week. 

I have had some interesting search terms bringing people to me—the big theme seems to be The Stepford Wives.  Three of the terms were done in Dutch.  So hello to my reader from the Netherlands! 

Someone (maybe the same person) typed in “I hated the book stepford wives”.  I’m sorry to hear that, if that’s the case.  Hope you stick around, anyway.  I am not a robot, and I don’t malfunction, though I’m a terrible typist.

Other search terms:

  • Dessert fail
  • Easter Yankee swap
  • Eat the whole plant from stem to root
  • Eggplant potato zucchini casserole
  • North African beef stew
  • Quite the week

I think this is the first week that people weren’t looking for posts about lazy cats, cat pictures, or how it’s okay to be lazy. I guess everyone feels reassured!

So, here’s what is going on in the internet:

Holly asks if it's worth it to have children. (For her and many parents, yes!)  She wrote it in response to Justin's musings about the same subject.

Are you your own worst critic?

Cash Only Living gets a lot of groceries for her money.

Saving money is half the battle.  You also want to make a decent interest rate on it.

Donna hates these neologisms.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crustless quiche in the slow cooker--near FAIL

Still tasted good.
Yes, the near fails keep on coming.

That brunch I had included a main course, and I thought a quiche would do it nicely.  I have the cookbook The French Slow Cooker, which is a good guide for people who want to use their slow cookers to make homestyle French food (not the fancy dishes you would get in a restaurant, but what you'd get from a good home cook in France).  Think cassoulet and leek and potato soup, not escargot.

So. I made the quiche, and I used the very best ingredients.  Here is what I did.

6 large eggs
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1 up whole milk
3 cups chopped, cooked, well-drained vegetables (I used spinach and mushrooms)
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or basil (I didn't have fresh so I used ground thyme instead)
1 cut grated Gruyere, Emmental, Gouda, or cheddar chese
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Butter the slow cooker insert.

Beat the eggs with the flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper to taste.  If you follow the recipe, this is when you whish in the half-and-half and milk.  If you are ME, completely forget to do this.  Stir in the broccoli, herbs, Gruyere, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan.  Pour mixture into slow cooker.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan on top.  Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, or until the quiche is just set in the center.  Run a knife around the edge of the quiche, cut into wedges, and serve hot.

After you eat it, realize you totally forgot to add the milk and half-and-half.  Remind your guests that the good news is that the quiche is actually much lower in fat this way.

(It was still good.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The rich really are different

. . .and some are, I suspect, a bit daft. 

Who else would seriously consider buying a t-shirt for $91,500? I mean, there are obviously smart rich people there, but there are enough dolts with money that Hermes thought they could actually offer a t-shirt for $91,500.   

With a straight face.

The rationale is that it's made by  Hermès , and it's made from crocodile.  To which I say, I can buy a nice, washable cotton T-shirt for under $10.  It's a T-shirt.  Also, I don't care if it's made by  Hermès , it's ugly. There is some dude in a muscle car who wants to know what happened to his interior upholstery.

If that is too much money for you, go the discount route and buy a cheaper version by Hermès for $60,000.  

It makes paying $50 for a t-shirt seem downright frugal.   

Some folks are calling the material innovative.  The only innovative thing I see here is the lengths people will go to convince you that spending that much on anything that you'll deposit pit stains on is a good idea.  

Don't buy this shirt. See? You've just saved $91,500.  YOU'RE WELCOME. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday blogaround, the "I cannot wait until this white stuff goes away" edition

Straw bale houses. My dream house!

Straw bale gardens!

Eco-friendly pothole filling.

How to get better gas mileage.

50 meatless meal recipes.

Kitchen composting without the smell.

DIY plywood flooring. Yep, you read that right.

A fat and lumpy infant universe.  Has nothing to do with the focus of this blog, but I really wanted to use the headline because it cracked me up.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Coffee cake muffins--a win from a fail

Yes, I do like to post my fails.  I think it shows people that none of us are perfect and that even the one who's presenting themselves as the awesomest expert on a subject (which is NOT me) can and does mess things up.  But this time, I was able to make a win from a fail. 

First--I've done this before.  I found that using yogurt in baking makes for a moister cake, tea bread, or muffin.  (It also makes for a much better quiche if you're making a crustless quiche in the oven.)

This muffin was a modified version of my mother's fantastic sour cream cake.  It's very modified--to make the cake, you have to cream one stick of softened butter with a cup of sugar, which I did not do here, and yes, you add sour cream.  However, this did turn out well.  Here is what I did:

1) Invite friends over for brunch.

2) Decide you want to make yogurt.  Buy whole milk because your luck in making a  thick yogurt hasn't been the best lately.

3) Attempt to make the yogurt.

4) At the end of the incubation period, unwrap the blankets from your crockpot and lift the lid to see runny, drinkable yogurt. Mutter naughty words under your breath, unless it's just you and the cat, in which case, feel free to use your outside voice.

5) Consider making smoothies for everyone.

6) Realize that you don't have anything sweet to eat (it was going to be homemade yogurt and frozen fruit) and go searching in your freezer for the last bag of shredded zucchini to make zucchini muffins.

7) Realize after looking in your nearly-empty freezer that actually, you already used the last bag. See part two of step four.

8) Decide that you'll try to make a coffee cake muffin instead.  Follow the universal muffin recipe from The Tightwad Gazette and add a cup of the yogurt instead of your usual sour cream (recipe below).

9) WIN.

Okay, here's the recipe:

Mix 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups of flour with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  Add one cup of runny FAIL yogurt, 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Stir well until everything is blended.  Fill muffin cups only halfway.  Spoon half of a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar to one teaspoon cinnamon mixed with a cup of walnuts onto the batter in the cups.  Cover each cup with the rest of the batter.  Sprinkle the rest of the mix on the tops of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

These are more like mini coffee cakes, so no butter is needed.

For Amy Dacyczyn's universal muffin recipe (expanded):

Grain: Use 2 to 2 1/2 cups of white flour. Or substitute oatmeal, cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, rye flour, or flake cereal for 1 cup of the white flour. Or substitute 1 cup cooked oatmeal, rice, or cornmeal for 1/2 cup of the white flour and decrease liquid to 1/2 cup.

Milk: Use 1 cup. Or substitute buttermilk or sour milk (add a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk). Or substitute fruit juice for part or all of the milk.

Fat: Use 1/4 cup vegetable oil or 4 tablespoons melted butter or margarine. Or substitute crunchy or regular peanut butter for part or all of the fat. The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a "wet addition."

Egg: Use 1 egg. Or substitute 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour and 1 tablespoon of water. If using a cooked grain, separate the egg, add the yolk to the batter, beat the white until stiff, and fold into the batter (Amy later gives a better method for fluffing up batter with cooked grain, which I will give a little later).

Sweetener: Use between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup sugar. Or substitute up to 3/4 cup brown sugar. Or substitute up to 1/2 cup honey or molasses, and decrease milk to 3/4 cup.

Baking Powder: Use 2 teaspoons. If using whole or cooked grains or more than 1 cup of additions, increase to 3 teaspoons. If using buttermilk or sour milk, decrease to 1 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

Salt: Use 1/2 teaspoon, or omit if you have a salt-restricted diet.

The following ingredients are optional. Additions can be used in any combination, up to 1 1/2 cups total. If using more than 1 cup of wet additions, decrease the milk to 1/2 cup.

Dry Additions: Nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut, and so on.

Moist Additions: Blueberries, chopped apple, freshly shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, and so on.

Wet Additions: Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed cooked sweet potato, mashed banana, mashed cooked carrot, and so on. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk.

Spices: Use spices that compliment the additions, such as 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or cloves. Try 2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon peel.

Jellies and Jams: Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 teaspoon jam or jelly and top with 2 more tablespoons batter.

Topping: Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the batter in the tins.

Nonsweet Combinations: Use only 2 tablespoons sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 3 strips fried-and-crumbled bacon, 2 tablespoons grated onion, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Spices could include a teaspoon of parsley and a pinch of marjoram.

To make muffins, combine dry ingredients, and then mix in wet ingredients until just combined; the batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin tin and fill cups two thirds full. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (give or take 5 minutes).

Shorthand version:
2 to 2 1/2 cups grain
1 cup milk
Up to 1/4 cup fat
1 egg
Up to 1/2 cup sweetener
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Up to 1 1/2 cups additions

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A quick update

I was in the throes of house-hunting.  I even found a house (two, actually) that I wanted to buy, but they each needed a lot of work, and I offered much less than the asking price.  I will write a post about that whole thing.  All I'll say for now is that neither seller went for it.  The first one may have come down to $20K more than I was comfortable spending, but I'd have to spend $15K-$20K to fix the damage in the house.  So, I continue to rent in my lovely little house near the town center and only seven minutes away from work, and I'll keep looking.  In one way, my options have expanded in that I can think about going for a short sale now (those take forever to come through).

Work has been very busy, which is good for job security.

I have been reading a lot of books, and they have irritated me no end.  Well, not all of them, but two of them.  Maybe I've had my fill of "I will try to do this impossible thing for a month/a year and then write a book about it" stunt.  I'll review them at one point but I have to stop throwing them across the room in frustration and surliness.  Here are two tips, one inspired by each book: If you set out to prove that something is stupid, you will do everything you shouldn't do and prove yourself right.  And if you chirp on and on about how easy it is to spend $30 for a free-range chicken and everyone should do it, you're showing everyone around you that you're a clueless dolt.

How have you all been?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Make the small fixes now and prevent the bigger problems later

It sounds obvious, but all of us have put off a small fix.  I don't have the time.  It can wait. Ugh, it's such a pain, I don't even want to think about it.

But you need to make the small fix before it grows into a big problem.

Three years ago, there was a small nick in my windshield.  I noticed it and figured my car might not pass inspection.  However, inspection was eight months away.  Maybe I could just let it go?

I decided to get it taken care of.  I figured I'd need a new windshield, but no, the guy just used an acrylic filler and it was as good as new.  He said had I not done that, the nick could have gotten bigger, the car would have definitely failed the inspection, and there would be no acrylic fix for that.  I'd would have had to get a whole new windshield put in.

The dripping faucet, the sputtering bulb, the leaky pipe, the scratched car, the cracked glass. . .all small things we can live with.  But all things that can cost us a lot of money if we don't fix them.    I'm the biggest procrastinator on the planet, so I know the urge to just pretend the small problem doesn't exist.  Honestly, half the reason why I'm writing this is to remind myself to not let the pain-in-the-neck things go.  Small problems can turn into bigger and more expensive ones.  Entropy is something we fight against every day. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's been quite a week

I'll fill you in later this week, but it's been a bit of a roller coaster for the past few days. 

Actually, it's been a bit of a roller coaster the past couple of weeks.  But I know the ride will end one way or the other, so I'm not too worried.

I read a bunch of books and have many things to say about them. (I have many things to say about everything.)  I was doing more than my share of facepalming, that's for sure.

  I am also planning my garden--here's what I'm thinking:

Garlic (already planted)
Shallots (already planted)
Butternut squash
Peppers (sweet and hot)
Herbs (the usual suspects)

Anyone have other suggestions? The friend I share the plot with will certainly have things she wants to plant.  I'm also thinking this planting style may suit me well, though I don't think E (my friend) will go for it.